For the first time since January 2008, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) indicated a growth in design activity in September, increasing for the fourth straight month. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 50.4, up from a reading of 48.2 the previous month. This score reflects an increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was also up sharply, moving from 54.6 to 62.3 - the highest mark since July 2007.
"This is certainly encouraging news, but we will need to see consistent improvement over the next few months in order to feel comfortable about the state of the design and construction industry," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. "While there has been increasing demand for design services, it is happening at a slow rate and there continue to be other obstacles that are preventing a more accelerated recovery. Still, the strong upturn in design activity in the commercial and industrial sector certainly suggests that this upturn can possibly be sustained."
Key September ABI highlights
Regional averages: Northeast (56.7), Midwest (51.0), South (47.0), West (44.5)
Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (56.3), institutional (47.9), multi-family residential (47.0), mixed practice (44.2)
Project inquiries index: 62.3